Ode to a Passionate Collector: Salomon de Rothschild’s Wonder Room

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Ode to a Passionate Collector: Salomon de Rothschild’s Wonder Room
Pushing the doors to the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild is a privileged experience that will transport you back in time. This wonder room is testament not only to art and the joy of collecting, but also to a beautiful but tragic love story. Salomon James de Rothschild was born in Paris in 1835, the fourth child of James Meyer de Rothschild, the head of the French branch of the banking dynasty. Salomon was gifted, but not particularly interested in the business. In the hope of reining in his dare-devilishness, his father sent him to Frankfurt to apprentice with his German cousin, Mayer Carl von Rothschild. Book-keeping by day, mingling in intellectual and aristocratic circles by night, Salomon learned the ropes of the business. His Prussian residence however, brought him more than financial acumen, because it is here that he met his cousin Adèle, Mayer Carl’s daughter, and fell in love. In a rare marriage of love, uncommon at the time amongst their peers, Salomon and Adèle spent two blissful years, and had a daughter. Salomon collected compulsively: not only Old Masters and Renaissance artifacts, but also more exotic masterpieces, discovered in the course of his extensive travels. Unfortunately, Salomon’s boundless love for the pleasures of life caught up with him, a massive coronary killing him unexpectedly at the age of 29. Adèle, left with a seven-month-old infant to raise on her own, retired from public life to grieve the loss of her beloved husband. Entrance. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong Adèle had always shared Salomon’s passion for the arts. Upon his death, she decided to have a new residence built, with the aim of staging an ideal setting to display the wonders the couple had amassed. Adèle commissioned a mansion in Louis XVI style, to be erected on the grounds once occupied by the Folie Beaujon, a country house with extensive grounds built for Nicolas Beaujoun (one of Louis XV’s bankers and the original owner of Hôtel d’Evreux, now known as the Elysée Palace, the official residence of the French President). At the time, in what has later come to be know as “the Rothschild taste,” 18th-century decorative arts were considered to be the height of chic. A formidable character (she repudiated her daughter for marrying out of the Jewish faith), upon her death in 1922, Adèle bequeathed most of her extensive collections to French museums but left the mansion and a considerable endowment to what is known today as the Fondation des Artistes, a charity that helps fragile artists in their old age or through illness. Incense burner. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
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Lead photo credit : The façade. Photo credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

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Sarah Bartesaghi Truong has lived, studied and worked in Milan, Paris and London. Her lifelong passion for art in all its forms and her entrepreneurial dreams were the catalyst for a career change: she left the world of investment banking to go back to school, at the Sotheby’s Institute of London. Ten years ago, she moved back to Paris, the ideal location for an art-lover. As an Italian in Paris, she decided she would keep playing the tourist in her adoptive home town, always on the lookout for the many wonders the French capital has to offer to the curious explorer. VeniVidiParis, the company she founded, plans curated itineraries in the French capital and its vicinity for travellers wishing to discover the city’s vibrant art scene, but not only. Take a look at her recent discoveries on her Instagram feed, @venividiparis, or contact her at [email protected] for help planning your next Parisian vacation.

Comments

  • Guy Hibbert
    2020-12-05 05:35:45
    Guy Hibbert
    Thank you for this fascinating insight Sarah - a hidden gem. The French Rothschild dynasty made huge contributions to public art collections. If I have the family tree right, Adèle's niece (by marriage) was Béatrice de Rothschild who built up a fabulous collection of art and antiques much of which were housed in her pink palace, the Villa Ephrussi on Cap Ferrat. Like Adèle she bequeathed all of it to the French state on her death.

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    •  Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
      2020-12-08 10:34:58
      Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
      Thank you Guy for your kind words. Yes, you are absolutely right. Béatrice was the daughter of Salomon's brother Alphonse, and another great patron of the arts, who loved France and bequeathed her collections to the institut, like the Camondos, another family of Jewish bankers. If you happen to be in Paris or come to the city before the exhibition Luxes at Musée des Arts Décoratifs ends, you may be able to see other treasures bequeathed by Adèle, Salomon's widow, to the Louvre, including a Chinese Imperial headdress, with the same kind of kingfisher feathers marquetry as the vase displayed in the wonder room. I wish you a healthy and merry Holiday Season! Sarah

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